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The Church's Identity and Call

1 Peter  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Introduction

Will you please open your Bible and turn with me to ? I have entitled this message “The Church’s Identity and Call” as we are going to be considering verses 4-10 of . As you have your Bible opened, please read along with me as I read .
Read . Pray.
A couple of months ago I was listening to a podcast where the host of this podcast made a very compelling point, at least to me, about one key trait that can be missing in a person and be ultimately detrimental to them. That trait was self-awareness. Have you ever met someone who lacks self-awareness? It may be that they think very highly of their skills in a particular area and completely overestimate their ability, which sadly leads them to failure and shame or blame-shifting. Or perhaps you know someone that lacks self-awareness in social settings so they’re always saying or doing the wrong thing that is rather humiliating. Interestingly enough, the person who lacks self-awareness is never the one embarrassed, proving how unaware they really are!
The host of this podcast pointed out how detrimental this lack of self-awareness can be to us. The stories that he shared, mainly from a negative perspective, convinced me that self-awareness is an important characteristic in a person. Having heard that podcast and, more importantly, having studied this passage, I believe that a lack of self-awareness does not merely affect us socially or occupationally either, I believe it affects us spiritually. And I think this is exactly what wants to help us see. God wants you and I to be self-aware people. He wants you and I to know our identity and call as Christians so that we can live faithfully in this fallen world.
A lack of self-awareness will hinder us from living faithfully in this fallen world. As we have seen from this letter already, Christians living in the world find themselves in a precarious position. We are living among societies that are at war with the God we call Father. We live among people that despise the Savior we call brother. We are mocked, persecuted, and ostracized. Admittedly, it often seems as if we live at a disadvantage in this world. So, what will keep us pressing forward? What will sustain our faithfulness to God as we live in the world that opposes him?
Peter tells us in these verses that knowing our identity as God’s people will sustain us as exiles and empower our service to God. More than we need practical measures for dealing with the hostility around us, what we need is a firm grasp on our identity as God’s people. What has God done for us? Who has he made us to be? And then what is he calling us to do? Knowing your identity as belonging to God will sustain you as an exile and empower your service to Him.
Knowing your true identity as a Christian will give you courage. It will help you endure. This morning, we are being helped by God to know who we really are as his people, so take note of what God has made you to be so that you can live faithfully in this sinful, broken, and hostile world.
This passage educates us about identity by putting before us a very clear contrast. On the one hand we see those who believe, that is, those who have received God’s mercy in Christ and have become his people. They are people who have believed the gospel: that Jesus Christ is the only righteous one and that in order for us to be accepted by God as righteous, we need Christ’s. In love, through his death and resurrection, purchased our righteousness. This is what God’s people believe!
In contrast, on the other hand, we see in verse 7 that there are those who do not believe. They have rejected Jesus Christ and instead look to another savior, whether that savior be science, another god, or themselves. This contrast in clear in this passage. But Peter’s point through this contrast is not to point out the differences between the two, but to give us - the church - a glorious vision of what God has made us to be.
What we see is that God has given us a glorious identity and an incredible purpose.

God Has Given Us a Glorious Identity and an Incredible Purpose

What God has made you to be can be described in many ways, but one of the best descriptions is “glorious.” Yes, us. We who find ourselves stumbling over sin, at times unmotivated to devote ourselves to God, suffering and weak - we have a glorious identity. Earlier Peter told us that the salvation we received is something that angels long to look into, and I believe that this passage helps us understand why. What God has done for us is simply glorious.
So what has he done? Well first, he has made us into his own dwelling place. He has made us his temple.

God has made us into his own dwelling place.

Look at verses 4-5 again
1 Peter 2:4–5 ESV
As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
In order to understand our identity, we need to first understand Jesus’ identity. After all, Christians are people that have been united to Jesus Christ. This reality, being united to Jesus Christ, is the most important thing about us. In order to understand our identity we must first understand his! And so, Peter begins Jesus.
Jesus, Peter tells us, is a living stone. This metaphor that Peter is using in reference to Christ actually comes from the Old Testament. Specifically, Peter is thinking about :
Psalm 118:22 ESV
The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.
Peter uses this verse here because Jesus himself said, in the parable of the tenants, that this verse was speaking about him. Peter learned that from Jesus. What’s more, Peter knew that Jesus is not just a stone but that he is a living stone. He is a stone that, though rejected by men and ultimately put to death on the cross, came to life again through the resurrection. Through his death and resurrection, Jesus has become the cornerstone.
Peter puts all of this together in Acts 4:
Acts 4:10–12 ESV
let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
The one that we are united to, that we are mocked for, the one that has set us outside the acceptance of society is a living stone, chose and precious. Though rejected by men, he was chosen by God as his Son to be the redeemer of his people. He is precious in God’s eyes - the only eyes that matter. He is God’s beloved Son, in whom he is well pleased. And he is the only one by which men must be saved.
Peter gives more assurance to our hope in Christ in verse 6:
1 Peter 2:6 ESV
For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”
Peter is quoting from Isaiah 28. Hear what Isaiah says:
Hear what Isaiah says:
Psalm 118:22 ESV
The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.
Isaiah 28:16 ESV
therefore thus says the Lord God, “Behold, I am the one who has laid as a foundation in Zion, a stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation: ‘Whoever believes will not be in haste.’
Isaiah
Isaiah 28:16 ESV
therefore thus says the Lord God, “Behold, I am the one who has laid as a foundation in Zion, a stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation: ‘Whoever believes will not be in haste.’
The context of Isaiah is that Ephraim has disobeyed and failed to believe the Lord, which in turn results in his judgment against them. Yet, not everyone will experience this judgment. Those who do trust in the Lord will escape. So Isaiah is encouraging them to not put their trust in anything other than the Lord. This cornerstone is precious and it is a sure foundation.
Because this living and precious cornerstone is none other than Jesus Christ. Jesus is a living stone.
Jesus is the stone that has been laid in Zion. The cornerstone, the foundational stone upon which all other stones of the building are measures and aligned. Without the right cornerstone put in place perfectly, all else will go awry. This is our Lord. Therefore, as he says in verse 6, “whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”
Whatever our world does and whatever direction it goes, however difficult things may become for Christians, you will never be put to shame. Not before God. Not when it matters most - on the judgment day.
So, this is who we are united to! And united to him, we too are living stones. Look again at verse 5:
1 Peter 2:5 ESV
you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
Though we, like Jesus, may find ourselves at odds with the world that opposes Christ, we also, like Jesus, are living stones. And we are being made into God’s dwelling place. Peter says that we are being built up as a spiritual house. This term house alludes to the temple which was often called a house in the Old Testament. We are God’s “house”, his temple, his dwelling place.
This would’ve been astounding to the original readers. After all, the temple was still standing as they read these words. To those in his audience that were Jews, it was there that God’s presence dwelt. But now, through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, the one about which the temple foreshadowed has come. And we, who have been united to Him and indwelt by the Holy Spirit are now God’s temple. We, the church, are God’s dwelling place.
1 Corinthians 3:16 ESV
Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?
Church, your identity in Christ is that you are God’s dwelling place on earth. God dwells among us, today, as we gather to worship. God’s presence is here. Can you believe it? What was once there is now here. This gathering is more than a meeting, this is the dwelling place of God. We are chosen and precious to God. We are near to God’s heart.
So why would we fear whatever the world may threaten against us!?!
What we see next about our identity is that we are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, and God’s own people:
Acts 4:10–12 ESV
let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
Acts 4:11–12 ESV
This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

God has made us a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, and his own people.

As God’s dwelling place on earth, there is glory in the depths of our new identity. He says in verse 9:
1 Peter 2:9 ESV
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
Chosen race - We are the true children of Abraham. Not merely people of Abraham’s bloodline, but those who are Abraham’s children by faith. We are God’s chosen people.
Royal Priesthood - In the Old Testament the priesthood was limited to the tribe of Levi so only a small portion of the people of Israel could carry out this function among God’s people. And only one priest could enter the holy of holies, and he only once a year. But now, through Christ, ALL of Christ’s people are his priests. Like the tribe of Levi, we have been set apart for service to God. We ALL have direct access to the throne room of God. We can ALL approach God, yes as Holy but also as our Father. Church, we are a royal priesthood.
A Holy Nation - We are the people set apart for the Lord, enjoying his favor.
A People for his own possession - We belong to God. Though the world may reject us, God claims us because we have been purchased by His Son. We are precious to Him. We are now his people. But isn’t that Israel? Yes! But the true Israel is Christ and now, united to Him, the church is now the fulfill the promises made to Israel and we are now the people of God.
This is your identity!!! Now, notice 2 things about this identity:
This identity is corporate. We live in an individualized society. We think personally before we think corporately. But not the original readers here. What Peter has been describing as our identity is meant to be understood corporately before it is understood individually. So don’t minimize what we are, together! This is a glorious people.
This identity is done by God’s mercy.
1 Peter 2:10 ESV
Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
1 Peter
We are who we are, because of God. Because God is merciful and gracious. And now, we have a purpose:

With this identity, God has called us to worship and proclaim His name.

Not only do we have a glorious identity, but we have an incredible purpose. This purpose is seen in 2 verses. First, in verse 5:
1 Peter 2:5 ESV
you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
We are built into God’s dwelling place so that as a holy priesthood we would offer spiritual sacrifices to God. What are these sacrifices? Truly, they are everything that we do in the name of Christ that is pleasing to God. Yes, it is worship but it is also the worship of our lives for the sake of God and in love for others.
As it says in Romans 12:1:
Romans 12:1 ESV
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
So your identity is meant to lead you to serve the risen Savior!
And the writer of Hebrews says:
Hebrews 13:15–16 ESV
Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.
Hebrews 13:
So your identity is meant to lead you to serve the risen Savior!
The second purpose is seen in verse 9:
1 Peter 2:9 ESV
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
1 Peter 2:
What is this purpose? First, it is to praise God through our worship. We praise the excellencies of the one that has called us out of darkness and into light. The church has been established to praise God. Worship is central to the calling of the church. But second, this purpose is also to praise God through evangelism. By praising God’s name for his deliverance from darkness to those that are still trapped in darkness.
Church, you have a calling to proclaim the excellencies of God to others. And isn’t it remarkable, that this evangelism flows from our worship of Him who has delivered us! People amazed at their salvation will tell others about this salvation! As one commentator said, “The heart of evangelism is doxological”. As John Piper famously said, “Missions exists because worship doesn’t.”
But finally, as I said before, Peter frames this identity and call by making a contrast. While this identity exists for those who believe, there are those who don’t. We see:

Unbelievers Stumble Over the Cornerstone

Let’s read verses 7-8 again:
1 Peter 2:7–8 ESV
So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.
To the world that repudiates the claims of Christ, His is a rock that they tumble over. A rock of offence. He is offensive to them because they refuse to believe in him and obey him. They disobeyed the word in they the refuse to acknowledge the incarnate Word and worship him as Lord. They disobey the message of the gospel and refuse to believe in him. They stumble because of their own rebellion against him.
But Peter adds this provocative statement, “as they were destined to do.” God has determined that they would disbelieve and stumble. God sovereignly controls all things, from the decisions of kings to the throw of dice. Even the worst act in all of history, the crucifixion of Jesus was predestined by God. So is the rejection of Christ by rebellious men.
Though not free from personal responsibility, this rejection is destined by God. While much confusion lies at the harmony of these two ideas, let’s consider what this means for our purpose.
Church, you have been given an identity by God. This identity includes a calling. Will you proclaim and worship his name in the midst of hostility? Why, after all, should this hostility surprise you? The God who holds you, who has given you this glorious identity and incredible calling, is in control of this hostility to! Will you not remain faithful to him??
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